BY KIMBERLY ROSE
One can only imagine the pain of losing a loved one and on top of that, having to go to work as if everything was normal. You feel broken, you’re drowning in sorrow, but you still have to go on as a normal, responsible human. Luckily, more and more companies are recognizing the pain that so often affects their employees and remains taboo in workplaces.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 60 percent of workers in the private sector have access to paid bereavement through their employers – which is simply not enough. Death affects everyone, not just 60 percent.
Facebook, though, along with several other companies, is starting the conversation about grief and has doubled its paid death leave. In February, they made the choice to now offer up to 20 paid days off for any employees that lose an immediate family member, and offer 10 days of paid leave to those mourning the death of an extended family member.
This spark of change was initiated by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who knows grief all too well and decided it was time for a change. Sandberg lost her husband Dave on May 15 and understands the process of recovery and healing that each employee should have a right to. Announcing the decision in February, Sandberg took her thoughts on her company’s policy to social media. “Amid the nightmare of Dave’s death when my kids needed me more than ever, I was grateful every day to work for a company that provides bereavement leave and flexibility,” wrote Sandberg. “Today, we’re taking another step.”
Facebook is outstanding when it comes to paid leave and understanding situations that can arise and affect employee’s daily lives. The company offers four months for all new parents as well as paid family leave for those who need to care for an unwell loved one. Sandberg also announced a new three-day “paid family sick time” policy that covers different short-term illness scenarios, like a child being home sick. These convenient policies are in addition to the 21 annual days of paid time off and unlimited sick time that Facebook offers, making the company a role model for others to follow. “Companies that stand by the people who work for them do the right thing and the smart thing - it helps them serve their mission, live their values, and improve their bottom line by increasing the loyalty and performance of their workforce,” wrote Sandberg.
In the last year, additional companies like Twitter, Cisco, and others have updated their PTO policies as well, offering unlimited vacation days to employees which could be used to grieve or care for a loved one. And just this past week, MasterCard followed by extending its bereavement policy of 15 days to 20 days for employees who lose a child, spouse, or domestic partner. The company also said it would support those employees with resources, including face-to-face counseling, and 18 months of medical insurance coverage. With the progress made in the last year, one can anticipate more companies to catch on in the future.
According to The Grief Index’s survey of 35,000 grieving employees, U.S. businesses lose more than $37.6 billion annually due to mistakes, absence, and low productivity that all result from grief. If employers are looking for active and engaged workers, it’s not going to be possible with a recent tragedy in their life. With companies changing their policies, though, things are looking up for employees everywhere. Like Russell Friedman, executive director of the Grief Recover Institute, told NBC News, “You can’t park your grief at the office door and then pick it up at five… When your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work right.”